Passed as Present
Catalogue Essay for exhibiton with the Lodeveans Collection at York City Art Gallery, York January 2008. Gill Hedley is an independent curator, writer and consultant on contemporary visual arts.
When I was a child I loved playing Pelmanism, a game of memory. Two sets of playing cards are laid out, face down. Each player turns two cards over at a time, memorising each card’s position, and, eventually, learning to pick up matching pairs in order to win.
I was reminded of this when Caroline Worthington and I began to make our selection from York Art Gallery’s collection and the Lodeveans Collection for Passed as Present. Our purpose was to find as many connections as we could among York’s works of art and the international contemporary collection put together by Stuart and John Evans.
We looked first for common themes from the traditional canon such as portraiture, still-life and the vanitas so we could place a classical example next to a work from today which uses very different materials or approaches. Some of the pairings are straightforward, such as Philip Wilson Steer and Thorina Rose’s responses to Japanese design and woodblock prints.
Pauline Kraneis and KF Morrison each take the familiar image of the view through a window, a frequent metaphor for painting itself. One is a charming though academic view and the other a technical tour de force in pencil.
Mackenzie Smith’s birdcage has a nostalgic feel that echoes Margarita Gluzberg’s Vinyl Nightingale of which she says “maybe it’s because I’m Russian but ... surfaces of vinyl records with their embedded songs move me to tears”.
Another intention was to allow for the humour and breadth of reference that contemporary art encourages. Fernanda Chieco’s Smoking the Salmon is from her Angelo Domini series of bizarre systems that link humans (always 12 in group) through the inclusion of a single highlighted creature is shown here with Rysbrack’s rather surreal pile of fish.
Alex Pollard’s Cat Monkey and John Armstrong’s versions of Cretan wall paintings are very similar treatments of line and form both making references to archaic art.
Watteau’s Le Defile (a march) partners Katy Moran’s Falling Apart at the Seams. This was also the first work to enter the Lodeveans Collection. It is a tiny version of Jacques- Louis David’s famous and bravura portrait of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, painted 100 years after the Watteau.
Jake and Dinos Chapman’s version of The Disasters of War is a re-working of Goya’s famous series which depicted the horrors of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain. Beside it is a selection of illustrations by John Tillotson Hyde. All these works serve as a reminder that the history of art has always been a rich source for artists and remains so today.
Not all the works from York’s collection are the best known or most regularly displayed. Passed as Present has enabled some works to be given an airing and for all of them to be seen afresh with the complement, echo or contrast of very contemporary works. More detailed labels accompany several of the groups.
Press release October 2007
Passed As Present, Jan 19 – April 13 2008
Past masters will be paired with contemporary works by some of the most exciting modern artists in a brand new exhibition at York Art Gallery.
Passed As Present will see rarely seen paintings from the gallery’s prestigious collection complemented by loans from the Lodeveans collection of international contemporary art.
This will be the collection’s first public exhibition, which has been guest curated by Gill Hedley, formally director of the Contemporary Art Society.
It has been a real pleasure to introduce contemporary works in a range of materials (including a frozen radiator or a video
shown with a powder compact) into the wonderful collection at York Art Gallery. Some surprising matches and contrasts have emerged to give
a new reading of some very traditional themes shared by the old masters and the rising stars.
The Lodeveans Collection was put together by a father and son team, Stuart and John Evans, and this will be its first major public showing. It was created by them to give young artists a wider public audience and to encourage new collectors.
By showing the works together Gill and Caroline Worthington, curator of fine art at the gallery, aim to show the common themes, techniques and styles as well as the juxtapositions between the pieces. This will illuminate and provoke as well as give a new way of looking at old favourites.
New works on show include Passed As Present by Chris Sharp paired with YORAG 472, School Trip by Victoria Smirnoff with YORAG 724 and Charming, by Jane Simpson – an ice-covered baroque patterned radiator displayed with Henri Fantin-Latour’s White Roses. Past masters include LS Lowry, Paul Nash, Frediani and de Heem.
This will be the latest in a series of successful contemporary art exhibitions at York Art Gallery, reflecting the city’s strong interest in modern art.